Blu-ray Review: White Snake

First off: The CGI animated film White Snake has nothing to do with David Coverdale’s band Whitesnake that sold millions in the ’80s. There’s no hairband metal on the soundtrack so don’t expect an Asian version of Rock of Ages. The White Snake movie is based on The Legend of the White Snake, a Chinese fable about a time when snakes and demons mixed with people. While the fable has been adapted to musicals, stage plays and live action films, this is the first time the tale has been animated.

Blanca has been ordered to sneak into the fortress of a General who has been getting the locals to kill snakes and deliver him. She’s not there to spy. She’s arrived to assassinate the military leader in the middle of one of his ceremonies about the snake. The attempt goes bad and during her escape, she gets knocked hard which causes her to suffer from amnesia and nearly die. Luckily for her she’s rescued by Xuan Ah. He’s a local boy who really isn’t into catching snakes for the General. He’s more into enjoying life. He does his best to help Blanca jog her memory. Turns out she’s not quite human as she finds out when she reconnects with her sisters and other relatives that are part snakes. She needs to fully recover her memory and powers to prevent the general’s plan to wipe out all the snakes and assume even more power. But can she transform to her true self when her heart is in love with Xuan Ah?

White Snake really takes advantage of animation to tell this serpentine story. The supernatural springs forth from realistic CGI scenes that would have been quite jarring if the movie was part real action mixed with special effects. Having a cast of characters that are half human and half snake just wouldn’t look right outside of this universe where anything is possible. There’s one character that is part Fox with faces on both sides of her head that wouldn be extra grotesque in live action film. But in an animated film, you can appreciate such a character for the arty nature of their design. There’s a flow to the nature spirits assuming partial human form. The same is true for the major action scenes. A giant snake battle at the end is a bit poetic in the reptilian struggle. White Snake feels like a Chinese fable with the illustrative wall hangings set into motion.

The video is 2.35:1 anamorphic. The CGI looks fine in the 1080p transfer. The snakes really slither around the screen. The audio is DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround with both the English and Mandarin Chinese soundtracks. Either version sounds fine. The movie is subtitled in English and Spanish.

DVD of movie and bonus features.

Trailers (6:29) gives the hypnotic nature of the film. The trailers include two US versions and the original Chinese trailers.

Storyboards (4:34) for selected scenes including the couple flying with umbrellas.

Music Video (2:53) for the song “Origin.” The singing is in Chinese with English subtitles.

Director Q & A at AIF 2019 (26:30) has co-director Ji Zhao talk about how he got into animation. He was originally working in live action since in China, animation for quite sometime was done for small kids. He talks about White Snake being the first animated film to be dubbed in English and released internationally.

Interview with Ji Zhao (14:19) has him speak of how White Snake is a perfect idea for an animation film. He speaks of how previous versions were done in live action. He wanted to do it in animation to get deeper into the supernatural elements.

Shout! Factory and GKIDS present White Snake. Directed by: Amp Wong & Zhao Ji. Screenplay by: Damao. Starring: Zhang Zhe, Stephanie Sheh, Yang Tianxiang, Paul Yen, Tang Xiaoxi and Vivian Lu. Rated: Unrated. Running Time: 99 minutes. Released: February 4, 2020.

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